Did Floyd pay for Mayo?
USC basketball Coach Tim Floyd delivered cash to the man who steered O.J. Mayo to the university, according to a former associate of the player and the middleman.
That associate, Louis Johnson, says Floyd met Rodney Guillory outside a stretch of Beverly Hills cafes on Valentine’s Day in 2007, giving him at least $1,000 cash in an envelope -- which Johnson has since reported to investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, IRS and the NCAA.
Johnson made his allegations public in a story first reported by Yahoo Sports late Tuesday afternoon. Later in the day, he said of his allegations in an interview with The Times, “I understand the ramifications. I don’t want to take down a university. I was asked a question and I had to answer it truthfully.”
David Murphy, one of Johnson’s attorneys, said the $1,000 was “pocket money,” adding, “It was an inducement for the courting phase of Mayo. It was for the purpose of staying on the positive side with Rodney, who had the influence with O.J.”
Mayo committed to USC in August 2006, and officially signed with the Trojans about three months later. In his one season with the team, he led the Trojans in scoring and earned All-Pacific 10 Conference recognition before becoming an NBA lottery pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008. He was among the league’s top rookies this season.
If the NCAA finds truth in this and other allegations previously made by Johnson, USC could be hit with major sanctions, including forfeitures of victories, probation, a ban on postseason play, the loss of television appearances or scholarship and recruiting restrictions.
Attempts to reach Guillory were unsuccessful. Floyd did not return messages left at his office, home and on his cellphone. An athletic department spokesman referred all questions to university general counsel Carol Mauch Amir, who, reached at home, said, “We cannot comment on an ongoing NCAA investigation.”
The Times reported last month that the NCAA had combined investigations into Mayo and USC basketball with that of Reggie Bush and USC football. Bush, a star running back and Heisman Trophy winner for the Trojans, has been accused of accepting thousands in cash and his family for failing to pay rent on a home owned by a fledgling marketer while he was playing for USC in 2004 and 2005.
Combining the cases may be an indication that the NCAA is seeking to demonstrate that USC has lost institutional control of its athletic program. “It makes sense,” said Anthony V. Salerno, another of Johnson’s attorneys. “The NCAA looks at the program as a whole, and you may be talking about systemic problems in these cases.”
Floyd has acknowledged that his recruitment of Mayo started when Guillory, a Los Angeles events promoter -- and, according to Johnson, a longtime agent “runner” -- walked into his office one day and asked the coach if he’d like to add the star from West Virginia to his roster.
USC knew that Guillory had already been investigated by the NCAA in 2000 for his relationship with Trojans player Jeff Trepagnier and Fresno State player Tito Maddox. Guillory was found to have bought an airline ticket for Maddox. Trepagnier was briefly suspended by USC but later cleared.
Johnson, a former Long Beach Press-Telegram sportswriter, has said that Guillory was given between $200,000 and $250,000 in cash and gifts to steer Mayo to the Northern California-based sports agency Bill Duffy Associates, funneling some of it to the player before and during his year at USC. Those allegations were first reported last year in a segment of the ESPN show “Outside the Lines.”
The Beverly Hills meeting between Guillory and Floyd went this way, according to Johnson and his attorneys -- who said Johnson told the same thing to two NCAA investigators in the presence of USC attorneys last week:
Guillory was driving an Infiniti sport utility vehicle when he arrived at Johnson’s Long Beach home saying that he needed to meet Floyd to “pick up a grand” for a trip to Las Vegas during the NBA’s All-Star weekend. Floyd and Guillory exchanged cellphone calls arranging their meeting at a cafe adjacent to Rodeo Drive. Guillory drove to the location, but once there Johnson took the wheel, saying hello to Floyd before he switched over to the driver’s seat and circled the block for 10 to 15 minutes after watching the pair enter a cafe.
Finally, Guillory appeared alone on a street corner, entering the vehicle and pulling out an envelope full of $100 bills.
“I hadn’t seen anything like that before, but I did know, having covered the high school basketball scene, that those things happened, that coaches give kids money,” Johnson said, adding that although he didn’t see the money change hands, he was certain the exchange was made because of Guillory’s description of what was going to happen followed by the showing of the money.
Most dramatic, Johnson said, was the moment he locked eyes with Floyd outside the cafe. “He knew who I was, a writer,” Johnson said. “I read body language well. He was uneasy. It was written all over his face.”
Floyd has an 85-50 record in four seasons at the helm of the Trojans, and has guided the program to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in school history. He has three years left on his contract, with a base pay believed to be about $850,000.
In April, Floyd turned down what was believed to be an even more lucrative offer by Pac-10 rival Arizona to take over its program, explaining his decision by saying that his job at USC would be his last.
Attorney Salerno said of Floyd: “It will be interesting to see if USC now backs him or throws him under the bus. . . . They can say, ‘Maybe we were negligent with Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo getting money, TVs and all that, but in no way can we condone what has happened here.’ ”
Johnson produced receipts to back up the claims he made about Guillory and Mayo to “Outside the Lines,” and Salerno said his client is prepared to testify under oath if criminal charges are filed as the result of the federal investigations.
The NCAA investigation alone may have already caused USC to lose another top basketball recruit, 6-10 power forward Renardo Sidney of Los Angeles Fairfax High. Sidney, who is ranked among the nation’s top senior big men, had announced his intention to accept a scholarship from USC, but the school later stopped recruiting him.
The Times reported that school sources, speaking anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the situation, said questions about the Sidney family’s finances had prompted school administrators to instruct Floyd to withdraw a scholarship offer.
However, a source close to Sidney indicated the player and his family had their own concerns, saying, “Neither side wanted an impending investigation hanging over them.”
Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.